The Greatest Album of All Time

I’ve been sitting in my wheelchair, tired, unable to do much today. I decided I needed some cheering up and I put on Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys.

It’s a very, very important album for me. It’s one a cherish deeply. It’s not my favourite album ever, because sentimental reasons come into play. Not that I’m not sentimental about this album. But if aliens ever come, and they ask me what the greatest album, the greatest achievement of music mankind has ever known, I would point furiously at this CD.

Apart from being a marvellous, complex, involving bit of music, it’s also so pop. So accessible. Anyone who’s ever looked into it could tell you Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ resident “genius” (and it’s an overused term, I know), used some amazing musical tricks. It’s performed fantastically. The vocals! Geez. Mind blowing.

But it’s a record you can enjoy when you’re 12. Or 120. You don’t need a degree to get everything you need to get out of this album.

By luck, I came across this album in high school, at a time when I had no right to be finding music this cool. I had some great mentors who pushed me into the past. The Nuggets box sets. Television. The Ramones. All sorts of stuff that you just don’t hear in suburban Sydney.

Sean, the You Am I tour manager at the time, told me this great story. When he was a wee lad, he was given a cassette tape (by his parents? By a friend? I will ask him when I next see him). The tape had Pet Sounds on one side and the Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo on the other.

(I fell madly in love with Sweetheart of the Rodeo many years later, remembering Sean’s sage words. It was an album when every other fucker went psychedelic, they did a country album. And what an album. Oh Gram Parsons…)

Everyone knows the Beach Boys – from golden oldies stations and nostalgia documentaries. I even knew Wouldn’t It Be Nice, sort of. I knew the hooks. But when I got the record and put it on…and after the twinkle of bells, the drum snap! Bam!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong?

For me, Pet Sounds is about being young. Or not being young anymore. Just listen to the fucking marching band rattling along behind the glorious vocal on Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Isn’t that the tumbling hearts of a million teenage dreams? Isn’t it the power of teen romance. All big and exciting. We are going to last forever. God, this song just rules the school. It’s just a glorious, glorious thing.

I love the line about the kind of world where we belong. It’s something that comes up a lot. That’s Not Me, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and others all allude to someone feeling kind of left out by the world. Of not fitting in. Is there a more teenage, or post-teenage emotion than that? The feeling that this world is not ours. Yet.

Then there are the handful of love songs. The heartbreaking Caroline, No. The absolutely timeless God Only Knows. It’s done with such hopefulness. There’s nothing complex there. It’s big, sad love.

And then there is just the nice familiarity that comes from loving an album for ten years. I know all the little breaks. The horn solo in I Know There’s An Answer. I can and do sing along to every single bit of backing vocal. It’s an old friend.

I will always say that there is more to the Beach Boys than this one record. And many people I know own this, maybe a best of, and calls it a day with the Beach Boys. Fair enough, really. Can’t blame you. At least you have Pet Sounds.

If you don’t, you’re really missing out. Grab a friend’s copy, a glass of wine and a window to look through. You’ll think of love, of expectations, of hopes and dreams, of the world as a whole. It will also make you happy, ultimately. Nothing cheers me up like this album. There’s something really rewarding about listening to it.

So this world probably has enough writings on this album. All I really wanted to say is, well, ignore all that. It doesn’t matter how revered an album is. All that matters is I had a kind of crappy day and this album made me happy again.

Genius, ain’t it?

Danny
London

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